In conclusion, PM Modi said, "I could not speak to everyone today, but the nation reverberates with your enthusiasm ... I regret being unable to host you all at my Delhi residence and meet you in person as before due to the pandemic. Besides, more than half of the Tokyo-bound athletes are busy training overseas. But I promise you that I will make time for you after your return from the Olympics."
Covid, the game-changer
"Covid has changed everything," he added, "including the year when the Olympics were to be held. It also changed the way you train and prepare. Much has changed. There are just ten days left in the run up to the Olympics. Once in Tokyo, you will also be faced with a different kind of set-up (playing without spectators)."
‘Cheer for India’ campaign
PM Modi lauded the athletes for their dedication and hard work during these tough times and mentioned that he had urged the nation in his latest Mann Ki Baat programme to cheer for the Indian contingent at the Tokyo Olympics. He added that it was heartening to see #CheerforIndia trending on social media across the country.
Addressing the Indian contingent, PM Modi said, "You have the blessings and best wishes of the whole nation, including me. People are also cheering for you through the NaMo app."
Unity in diversity
"You all share a common factor. Bold. Confident. Positive. Discipline. Dedication. Determination," he added.
"You are high on commitment and competitiveness. These are the same as the qualities of New India. You are the reflection of New India. You are the symbols of India's future ... You are part of Team India. This diversity and team spirit is the mark of 'Ek Bharat, Shreshth Bharat'," added PM Modi, as he touched upon the various government initiatives for sportspersons.
Do your best, forget the rest
PM Modi went on to remind Team India that they should not get bogged down by expectations and only focus on giving their best performance. He reiterated that the nation should 'Cheer for India'.
The Olympics will run from July 23 to August 8 this year.
PM Modi also asked Sania Mirza about the rise of tennis in tier-II and tier-III cities. “Tennis is a global sport which, when I started out 25 years ago, was not as popular as it is today,” Mirza said. She added that hard work, support and dedication are key and that destiny plays a role too.
The PM asked Mirza about her partnership with Ankita Raina and their preparation for the Olympics.
Mirza said that this is her fourth stint at the Olympics, while Raina is a first-time Olympian and that she needed nimble feet at the court which Raina would provide.
She also shared about how the perception of sports had changed ever since India hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and that people now believe that sports has moved beyond cricket.
Speaking to Indian men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh, PM Modi and asked him to share his experience while sticking together as a team during the first wave of Covid-19. Singh shared that his team utilised the time to study the opponents and identify their weaknesses and get better at their game.
PM Modi said, "Our nation has a rich legacy in hockey performance at the Olympics. There is added responsibility. Is there added pressure too?"
“The team focuses on giving their best and winning, and we feel proud to be part of the team legacy. Hence there is no pressure,” Singh said.
The PM was reminiscent of hockey stalwarts such as Major Dhyanchand, KDC Babu and Mohammed Shahid and wished Singh all the best in carrying forward the winning streak at the Olympics.
'She was a sportsperson in her earlier days and she helped me to overcome all the struggles and hurdles for this achievement," said swimmer Sajan Prakash, who in a first, has made it to the Olympics' 'A' qualification (besides swimmer Srihari Natraj).
On being asked by PM Modi about an earlier injury, Prakash shared about the frustration and depression that followed. He said he was blessed with a support system that helped him swim past the pain and emerge strong not just physically but mentally as well.
"How did you do it?" asked PM Modi of top female wrestler Vinesh Phogat. He spoke to her about carrying forward the legacy of the Phogat family and applauded her for battling past the career-threatening injury that saw her opt out of the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Engaging in jovial banter, PM Modi asked her family "Phogat family apni betiyon ko kaun si chakki ka atta khilati hai?"
Her father too joined in the conversation. He said, "If she wins a medal, I will go to pick her up at the airport, otherwise not ... I am confident that she will carry our Olympic dreams forward," said her father.
PM Modi appreciated paddler Manika Batra's efforts to teach underprivileged children. Batra shared how these children were inspired by her and, in turn, motivated her to perform better.
The PM also asked her about why she paints the tricolour on her hand, on occasion, during matches and Batra shared the interesting reason behind this.
Batra also spoke about her love for dance. "When I travel for a tournament, before a match or during leisure or after a match, I dance because it makes me feel good. It acts as a stress buster and boosts my confidence," she said.
Next on the cards was tennis champion Sharath Kamal and PM Modi asked him about what advice he would give to first-time Olympians. Kamal went on to describe how the face of sports had changed since the time he had stepped into the arena in 2006.
PM Modi told Kamal that he had a senior role to play and that his experience would benefit all Tokyo-bound athletes.
That was PM Modi's first question to shooter Saurabh Chaudhary. He went on to say, "Besides hard work, concentration is imperative during shooting events," and asked whether Chaudhary practices yoga or any other techniques. Chaudhary said, "Sir I practice yoga and meditation," and followed it up with another question.
"What do you do to maintain equanimity? It's a tough job running a nation."
And PM Modi followed it up with another question, "How do you feel when your friends flock to you for selfies?"
The PM lauded Chaudhary for his focus and concluded the conversation with best wishes
After greeting shooter Elavenil Valarivan in Gujarati, PM Modi said, "Ela I was told that you wanted to foray into athletics. What made you take up shooting?'
He also asked Valarivan, who is a college student, about her journey of balancing academics and shooting, and representing India at the Olympics.
"Ela, your generation is not just ambitious, but also mature. At a very young age, you have achieved international success."
He ended the interaction with words of encouragement on behalf of the nation and a "vanakkam".
PV Sindhu was the next athlete to interact with PM Modi. He enquired about the Rio Olympics silver medalist's practice at Gachibowli stadium. The PM also mentioned that he had heard about how her phone was taken away from her during Rio Olympics 2016 and that she wasn't allowed to eat ice cream. "Are you still barred from having ice cream?" he joked. In response, Sindhu spoke about the importance of diet in an athlete's life.
PM Modi then spoke to her parents and asked them about the message they would like to give to other parents whose children were interested in taking up sports.
PM Modi ended the conversation with encouraging words for PV Sindhu and added that, if things go well and they meet after the Olympics, "I will have ice cream with you."
PM Modi lauded Mary Kom adding that she is an inspiration for the nation and her achievements have inspired several young boxers. The ace boxer told PM Modi about how her kids miss her and how she tries to make them understand that she is away to represent the country. She said her children missed playing outside and shared simple things that all parents do -- she tells them to listen to their father when she is away and asks them to stay indoors due to the pandemic.
PM Modi then asked Kom about her favourite punch and who her idol is. The boxer had an interesting reply. Watch it here.
PM Modi spoke to boxer Ashish Kumar and asked about about his fight against Covid and about his father's demise. Kumar shared his thoughts on the ordeal that he faced when he tested Covid positive in Spain. He also spoke the support extended by his coach and support staff and about fulfilling his father's dream of representing India at the Olympics.
The prime minister drew a parallel between Kumar's loss with that of cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, who had played in the World Cup despite losing his father way back in 1999. He encouraged Kumar saying that he had overcome physical and emotional challenges with flying colours and that the whole nation believes that he will do well in Tokyo.
Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra informed Prime Minister Modi about his recovery from a shoulder injury. He also spoke about his experience of being part of the armed forces and shared his goal for the Tokyo Olympics. PM Modi's message to Chopra was that he should not feel the pressure of expectations and should, instead, focus on giving his 100 percent
Dutee Chand will represent the nation in the 100 and 200 metre sprints. “Dutee means ‘shine’ and you are shining in the world of sports,” said the PM. Chand spoke about the challenges she faced while rising through the ranks and the changes she brought about. She added that she wanted to prove that no woman is weak or less. In a message to her, PM Modi said that the entire nation is with her and wants to see her grab a podium finish at the Olympics. Watch here
PM Modi spoke to archer Praveen Jadhav, who shared with PM Modi about his struggles and how he prepared for the Tokyo Olympics. The PM spoke to his parents and referred to them as champions. Watch here.
Earlier, PM Modi said, "All Tokyo-bound athletes have inspiring life journey," and was looking forward to interacting with them. PM Modi began by speaking with archer Deepika Kumari who won gold in Paris. He said, "You are world No. 1 now. Your journey started with aiming at mangoes in your childhood. Tell us more about your interesting journey." Watch here.
As seen in the image below
The Japanese government has put in new regulations which will not allow the Indian athletes to physically interact with anyone from another team, delegation or country for three days upon arrival
The participating athletes and officials have received their Covid-19 vaccines. PM Modi had earlier asserted that all the needs of the Indian athletes, be it vaccination or training facilities, had to be fulfilled on top priority basis
The IOA had written to the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (TOCOG) to seek further clarifications regarding the arrival of the Indian contingent in Tokyo. However, they did not receive the necessary approvals from TOCOG, and are making arrangements so the Indian contingent departs from India on July 17, 2021 and arrives in Tokyo on July 18, 2021
The total contingent for Tokyo Olympics would be around 201 -- consisiting of 126 athletes and 75 officials. The number of officials cannot be more than one-third of the athlete group as per the Sports Ministry
rules.The contingent comprises 56 per cent of men and 44 per cent of women. It has 76 quota places and will compete in about 85 medal positions.
According to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), "The flagbearers for the Indian contingent of Tokyo 2020 for the opening ceremony on July 23rd are Mary Kom and Manpreet Singh."
"The flagbearer for the Indian contingent at the closing ceremony on August 8 will be Bajrang Punia," said IOA President Narinder Batra.
Earlier, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) joined PM Modi to extend its best wishes to the Indian contingent ahead of Tokyo Olympics
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with the Indian athletes' contingent for Tokyo Olympics this evening via video conferencing. He will encourage them and wish them on behalf of all Indians. The virtual
meeting is set to take place at 5pm
A total of 126 athletes across 18 sports disciplines from India will be heading to Tokyo